Dedicated to classics and hits.

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Glimpses of the Moon (1922) by Edith Wharton

Book Review
The Glimpses of the Moon (1922)
 by Edith Wharton

  Published two years after her Pulitzer Prize winning novel The Age of Innocence, The Glimpses of the Moon is best seen as a refinement of her well received approach to fiction, though the maudlin, forced happy ending hints at an attempt to move books.  Up until that forced happy ending, Glimpses is a winning tale about a poor couple with rich tastes, who decide to get married as a way to fund their extravagant lifestyles without having to work.

The idea of being someone with "rich tastes" but without money to match, who none the less simply can not conceive of working for a living seems to be something endemic to Wharton novels, though perhaps that is more a reflection of the early 20th century than Wharton herself.  The first two decades of the 20th century were marked by a huge leap in college attendance and graduation, and presumably it was from these ranks that the figure of the lower middle class educated gent/gal with upper class tastes and habits emerged.

 In The Glimpses of the Moon the main couple is Nick Lansing and Suzy Branch.  He, a would be writer who simply can't bring himself to write on commercial subjects, she the luxe offspring of a degenerate aristocratic pair who have squandered her birthright.  Her idea, hatched at the ever-so-disgusting artist cottage of their mutual friends, is that they get married but remain open to the idea of divorce should a "real prospect" come along.   Ideas such as this rarely work out in fiction or real life, and The Glimpses of the Moon is no exception.

 After a brief honeymoon in the Italian chateau of a mutual friend, Suzy lands them a huge Venetian villa with but a single proviso: that she abet the adulterous behavior of the wife/co-owner of the villa by posting occasional, pre-written letters to the husband/owner of the villa (who is himself in London.)  Sensing that this behavior would not be kosher with husband Nick, Suzy conceals the act from him, only to be undone by the adulteress herself, who, assuming that Nick is in the know, gifts him a bracelet at the end of their stay "for all his help."

 The confrontation between Nick and Suzy ends up with him embarking on a Mediterranean cruise as the paid Major Domo for a wealthy American couple, and she decamping for a Parisian villa outside Versailles where she is (horrors) asked to serve as a nanny.  She escapes the terrible fate of a working human being by accepting the marriage proposal of the suddenly wealth friend whose Italian chateau initially provided shelter for she and Nick, while Nick begins to draw the attention of the wealthy daughter of his employers.

 Seemingly in the last five pages their plan for a care free and whimsical divorce is abandoned so that they can remain together happy with their uncertain financial future.  The ending cuts against everything else in the Novel, and it actually seems like a situation where her publisher either "suggested" a happy resolution OR she made the decision herself.  Certainly, the ending moves The Glimpses of the Moon towards the shallow end of the Wharton canon, a minor classic if ever there was one.

Wednesday, February 05, 2014

Show Review: Broken Bells Record Release Party @ Baby's All Right (Brooklyn NYC)

The "pink lady" at the Broken Bells record release/Tumlr IRL party.

Show Review:
 Broken Bells Record Release Party
@ Baby's All Right (Brooklyn NYC)

  No show review for last Thursday's Dum Dum Girls record release show at Mercury Lounge- could not get in ha ha. As far as I'm concerned it's a good sign because it means there is demand among fans and press.  Plus, Dum Dum Girls were playing two shows that day (Mercury Lounge + Letterman) and they had just flown cross country, and I had seen the record release show at the Echo so I was like, ok.  I was staying around the corner however.

 The next night was the Tumblr IRL part at Baby's All Right in Brooklyn.  I believe this was the Broken Bells record release show, though no one actually called it that, nor did anyone seem to acknowledge the possibility that it could be construed that way.  The show, free for fans who RSVPed (or anyone who showed up after the initial pre show line subsided) was a smash success, with photographs by Danger Mouse (from the video production for the first single,) a girl dressed up in the Space Girl suit from said video (see above) and a custom made Juke Box stocked by the band and decked out in album art matching colors.

  Broken Bells came out and did three songs in duo fashion.  There was an open bar sponsored by Red Bull. I drank too much and ate no dinner. I think the new Broken Bells record is a hit and if ever there was an indie record that didn't need Pitchfork support, this is the one.  For what it's worth, having met both principals of the band, I would cordially disagree with almost everything that Larry Fitzmaurice said in this 5.4 review of the LP.  His main inaccuracy is pegging Mercer as the primary songwriter on the record, in fact, it was Danger Mouse who wrote many of the lyrics.  I don't think knowing that would have changed the record review one iota.

  The Pitchfork enmity for Danger Mouse is well established at this point- I'm not sure why but it seems to be manifested in multiple generations of the upper echelon of Pitchfork editorial staff.  Perhaps it was an interview he gave? or refused to grant?  Maybe if they just got to know him?  It seems like they would have a lot in common, since Danger Mouse is really just kinda a nerdy bro type underneath the international jet set super producer tag.

  To be totally clear, I'm not angry or upset about the review.  Honestly, post Drifters/LITD, post Crocodiles LP, it's become pretty clear that whether Pfork likes or hates your band doesn't really matter once the initial flush of interest ebbs away.  After that it's more about whether you actually produce music that normal people like, and what kind of label/management/press constellation you can bring to bear on the situation.  Certainly dating an artist manager has alerted me to some of the benefits of having someone capable in your corner.  The larger an audience for an artist, the important issues like "Who manages you?" and "What label are you on?" become. For the newer artist, label and management are more or less irrelevant, but when you get to a Broken Bells/Dum Dum Girls level these choices become important indeed.

Belle de jour (1967) d. Luis Buñuel

Catherine Deneuvre as Severine Serizy AKA Belle de jour in the 1967 film.  She is hot in her Yves St Laurent designed outfits for sure.

Movie Review
Belle de jour (1967)
d. Luis Buñuel
Criterion Collection #593

  How did Belle de jour make it until 2012 without a Criterion Collection edition?  Certainly Catherine Deneuvre's most iconic performance, and a top flight Luis Buñuel picture, and, let's face it, a gorgeous film despite the dark beginning, middle and end; you would think that the Criterion Collection spine number for Belle du jour would be in the 100s or 200s, not #593. Presumably it was a rights issue.

  I'm a big fan of Luis Buñuel, although this is the first of his films I've watched as part of this particular Criterion Collection review, I've already watched: The Exterminating Angel, Diary of a Chambermaid, The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeois and That Obscure Object of Desire.  While I wouldn't say Belle du jour is Bunuel's best film straight up, Deneuvre's Severine is maybe his best character.  Also, I think it fair to say that Belle de jour is Bunuel's most popular film.

 It's funny, but I recall starting to watch this film during the period when I was married and turning it off because it made me so uncomfortable.  At the time I probably should have taken that discomfort as a sign that there were problems with my marriage.  Now, I breezed through it.  I've packed in so many emotionally good wrenching films and novels that Belle de jour didn't make me blink, EVEN WHEN HER HUSBAND IS SHOT AT THE END BY WHERE GANGSTER JOHN.

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

The Rainbow (1915) by D.H. Lawrence

Book Review
The Rainbow by
D.H. Lawrence
p. 1915

  D.H. Lawrence is interesting  because he introduces modern themes but without many of the modern stylistic features that would come to characterize capital "M" modernism.   The best example is his treatment of sexuality, most famously in Lady Chatterley's Lover, but many of his books deal with sex in ways that are new and, dare I say, bold.

  In one sense, The Rainbow is a conventional multi-generational late Victorian/Edwardian family novel.  In another, more important sense, The Rainbow was declared obscene by the English government, and all copies were seized and burned after publication in 1915.  While I obviously think the censorship is ridiculous, I can see where they were coming from.  The third main character, grand daughter Ursula, lives in an openly sexual relationship that specifically DOES NOT end in marriage.  In fact, Ursula's refusal to marry the Polish emigre Anton Skrebernsky is the narrative center of the novel.

 From a formal/structural sense, Ursula's segment of The Rainbow overwhelms the novelty of the first two chapters, which are fairly conventional accounts of love among rural Englanders in the mid to late 19th century.  This topic is thematically of a piece with every Thomas Hardy and George Eliot novel, so the contrast between those first two portions and the third, radical portion concerning Ursula is almost jarring.

  The Rainbow is ALSO long- close to 600 pages I'm thinking? And considering the first two thirds of the book are nothing new or fresh, it makes the third, radical portion tough to reach.

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